Travel

Euville, France

I don’t know what to say about Euville. I have no outline for this blog entry. I have no way to start and no way to end. So I’ll just begin typing and see what happens.

Euville, France, is the childhood home of my memere, Therese Lemaire. It’s this tiny little farm town in the middle of the French countryside. It’s quaint and quite. There aren’t streetlights or stoplights. There isn’t a grocery store or a gas station. When you walk the streets, it looks like you just walked onto a movie set where a young woman would undoubtedly fall in love and never fall out.

I came to Euville not really knowing what to expect. We had spent the last week in the busy, extravagant cities of Paris and London. I grew up in Detroit, and, as an American, I’m used to the fast-paced life of the city. We do everything fast, don’t we? We eat fast and we love fast and we leave fast. But not in Euville. The second we left Paris, the world seemed to slow down and everything became really, really clear.

Euville is simple. Not simple as in it’s not beautiful or adorned with old, detailed homes. But simple because it almost doesn’t need all of that. When you wake up in the morning, you can hear the birds. You don’t hear cars. You feel the breeze through your window, and it’s fresh and crisp. People greet each other. People stop on the road to ask you how you are. People open up their homes and invite you in, and none of that is odd. That is normal. It’s normal to be kind in Euville. It’s normal to be patient and intentional and helpful. It’s not done out of obligation. It’s done because that’s just how it operates. It’s just how they are.

The entire time we were there, we were constantly whisked away to meet family. We went to dinner parties and were asked questions and were fed nonstop. Like…my jeans don’t fit kind of nonstop. I’ve never been anywhere in my life where I immediately felt home. It was comfortable. It felt right.

Yesterday morning, we took a few hours to walk into the village and see the house where my memere grew up. We had seen it already, but it was in passing, and we wanted to explore the rest of the village. We wandered down alleys and found all of the nooks and crannies in the village. We found the spot where my cousin, Jack Tootikian, carved his initials in 1968. We saw the place where my memere did her laundry and where they went to church.

We wandered down the streets…the same streets…that were occupied by Germans in WWII. We saw buildings that have undoubtedly been there for hundreds of years. But the entire time, all I could think about was my memere, as a little girl, growing up here. It was surreal to walk in the same place that she did before she even knew that I would ever exist.

After wandering for awhile (and me taking 500 pictures, per usual), we decided to head back. We rounded the corner of an alley to take one last look at the house, and we saw that somebody was home. There was a man working in the garage. Should we say hello? Should we walk away? At that moment, he turned, and I was able to wave him over. My Aunt Paulette explained to him in French why we were there and the significance of the house.  He understood. And then he invited us in.

We started in the garden, where we saw the chickens and perfectly lined crops growing. There was a shed in the back that must’ve been there for 100 years. This is when it started to hit me: I was in her home. This was the garden that she tended to and the place where she played. This was the house where she fell in love for the first time and the place where she had her first kiss. There are so many firsts that I don’t know about my memere- so many things that I never thought to ask her- and they were all found here.

I’m a crier, y’all. This isn’t new information. But this crying was different. It wasn’t sad that she wasn’t with me, it was more of an understanding. For the first time in my life, I understood why she was the way that she was. Her mannerisms and tendencies and even the small things, like the way she cut vegetables or carried her laundry, all started here. This place WAS memere. This place IS memere. I loved her more in that moment. I missed her inexplicably. But I felt peace- the same peace that I always felt when I was hanging out with her.

The man guided us into the home, where we were able to walk around. Except for the sound of me and Aunt Paulette sniffling and the chickens cock-a-doodling in the garden, it was quiet in there. The man was patient and let us take our time. I think he could tell how much this meant to us. Aunt Paulette just kept thanking him. We were so thankful.

The home was simple. There were things there- sinks and flooring and doors- that you could tell had been there from the beginning. I found myself touching the walls and doorknobs and windows. These were her windows. They were the doors that she walked through every day. This was where she learned to read and took her first steps. This was her home, and I was inside of it.

It was unreal. It still hasn’t hit me yet that it has happened. It feels like something that you would see only in movies, or only dream about, knowing that it will never come true. Never in a million years would I have imagined that I would get to do all of this…see all of this…feel all of this. It seems like something that is too lucky, too fortunate, to just happen on a Tuesday.

But that seems to be me, lately. Too lucky. Too fortunate. And it’s really a mindset more than it is anything else. My memere was a happy woman. She laughed, and she laughed hard. She was encouraging and affectionate. She wanted to know about our lives. She cared so deeply. She didn’t have an easy life or a lucky life or a rich life, but she had life. She chose, every day, to live.

Maybe that’s why I felt the way that I did while walking through her house. I knew that so much life had taken place there. I knew that the wrinkles on her face that came out when she smiled started in the very room that I was standing in. I knew that she was happy. She lived a full life. She endured a lot, yes. But she also overcame a lot, too. She had no excuses. She just was….just was joyful. There’s no other way to describe her. If you knew her, you know what I’m saying. If you don’t, I pray that you find someone who does for you what she did for all of us.

She’s been gone for awhile, and we had always talked about going to France together, so maybe that’s why this was so special. But even though she wasn’t there with me, it’s like I could feel her. I could feel the love that I felt from her so many times, because, for the first time in my life, I was seeing where that love came from.

I miss you so much, memere. I will honor you by being happy. Because that’s how you always honored us.

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